The James Altucher Show - Wynton Marsalis: How to Find the Jazz of Life: Embrace Your Creativity

The James Altucher Show – Episode #335
Wynton Marsalis: How to Find the Jazz of Life: Embrace Your Creativity

I always try to go a layer deeper with my guests. Sometimes people are so good at what they do, they get lost for words. Because if your skill is to make Pulitzer Prize winning music, then that’s your skill.

Which I like because it means I have to evolve as an interview on the spot. I have to ask harder questions, make them think.

I’ll give you an example.

I sat down with Wynton Marsalis, Managing and Artistic Director for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and I asked him how someone sitting in their cubicle can find “the jazz of life.” Where can they start?

“Do it,” he said. “Start where you are. It’s always best to start where you are.”

“But how?”

See, this is where interviewing becomes chess for me. (My other love.)

Wynton Marsalis’s whole life has been about developing his own creativity. He’s made over 80 albums and sold over 7 million records. He’s won 9 Grammys (9!). And he also won a Pulitzer Prize in music.

He has this gift. He can transform jazz. And that’s how he made his career. He has this ability to introduce the vocabulary of classical music into jazz. It was already there. But Wynton brought it to a new level. His. And he knew how to do this instinctually.

“We are all creative,” he said. But I had to dig deeper. Because some of us bury our creativity into numbers and budgets and fears.

He told me about improv…

“It teaches you to love yourself,” Wynton said.

I interrupted.

“Tell me what that means.”

“It means you have something you can do.”

Wynton’s creativity is a melding of ideas. Classical and Jazz. Together.

“We’re creative in everything we do. It’s a gift,” he said.

I felt like I was in a poem. He told me more. He said it’s in the way we dress, our hairstyle and our sense of humor.

Then I dug in for action steps. “What can the person listening right now do? How can they spark their own sense of creativity? Even in the little things?”

He told me an exercise he does with his students. They start by looking around the room. He tells them to find every example of creativity. They look at the outlets, the computer, the printer, the lamps. It’s all around. Everything was designed by someone. And creativity was a BIG part of it.

He told me how to cultivate this creativity muscle more. I’ll break it down.

1. Start with your own nature

“It starts with the things that are natural to you. The dreams you have,” Wynton said.

He dreamt of creating music. Simple. The hard part is turning it into a reality. Part of that is just effort. You see a dream, write it down. Save it. Water it. Do small actions. And everyday improve your effort by just 1%.

2. Don’t look for approval

I’m breaking a part his quote. So it’s just a continuation of the same idea. But there was so much in this one block. He went on to say, “The ideas that may not be cosigned by everyone else,” he said.

Meaning, you don’t need a cosigner to move forward. You don’t need a cheerleader or anyone to say “you can do it.”

I’ve learned for myself that as long as I approve of me, that’s all I need.

3. Ignore the haters

Then he said, “Don’t discard those things because you’re criticized,” Wynton said.

So criticism is not license to quit. There are plenty of reasons to abandon yourself, people do it everyday. And I wouldn’t say any are good reasons (don’t have time, don’t know where to start, etc.)

Negative feedback is another excuse that can be turned into fuel. If I write a post and someone doesn’t like it, I can try again tomorrow.

We’re given choices as we grow up and creativity is our way out of these choices.

We’re told to go to school, then find a job. Maybe you get a job as a lawyer. You work there for the next 30 years. And then retire. This is what we’re told to do.

So how do we pull ourselves out of this matrix? How do we get out of theses choices that have been made for us and be creative.

“Go deeper. Go deeper into what you feel, what you dream, what you know. You have to do it. No one can tell you how,” he said.

We need to embrace what is ours.

And create a symbiotic relationship with others.

“Embrace your creativity, then embrace the range of human creativity. It’s endless,” Wynton said, “Use the belief in yourself, in your creativity and the respect for other people’s creativity.”

Creativity is not complex. It’s simple.

“Search inside of yourself with a certain honesty ,” Wynton said, “Ask, ‘What do I like to do? ‘What am I passionate about? ‘What is making me so sad?’ These are questions you have to ask yourself over and over again to find your bliss.”

“We all have it,” Wynton said. “It’s a matter of us being given confidence in expressing it.”

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